A PB spin, Goode piano, Sapiens and science, and an operatic pearl
by Rob Tiller
I had an epic personal best spin class at Flywheel on Friday morning, with a score of 360. That’s big! The second place finisher’s score, 342, would also have been a PB. It was like expecting to run a 10k in 43 minutes and finishing in 33. I’d like to thank my teacher Matt, and the other fine spin teachers over the years (Vashni, Heather, Jen, Will) who helped me along the way.
I wish I knew for sure what produced all that energy, so I could bottle it. It might have been a good dinner the night before (Sally’s Blue Apron Thai cauliflower rice). It might have helped that I woke up early and did some pre-class foam rolling to loosen the muscles. Doing more interval work recently at the gym probably contributed. Also, there were several pretty girls in the class, which tends to increase peppiness. And it’s possible I drew a recently serviced and well-oiled bike. In any event, I will not be sharing the number of that bike, as I hope to get it next week.
That night we went over to Duke’s Baldwin Auditorium for a concert by master pianist Richard Goode. He performed Bach’s sixth partita and three late Beethoven sonatas (Ops. 101, 109, and 110). These works are well known to aficionados, but they’re also deep and mysterious. Even after two centuries, the interpreter can still find new things, and bring new life. Goode communicated the power and cohesiveness of the rich musical ideas, and also sang — literally! This was musicianship of the highest order, and I felt privileged to share the experience.
At the gym, I’ve been listening to Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari. Harari challenges a lot of widely shared assumptions about our origins, such as the notion that we were the sole human species on earth when we arose some 200,000 years ago. What happened to the Neanderthals, Denisovans, and other non-sapien human cousins? There are various theories, including the possibility that our ancestors exterminated them, as they killed off most of the existing species of large animals.
Harari points up that homo sapiens’ ruthless success as a species is attributable to our brilliance at social organization, and he accounts for this in part by our use of religious, economic, and other social myths. This is thought-provoking stuff, though Harari doesn’t always distinguish between matters of wide scientific consensus and ideas that are much more speculative.
I wouldn’t expect Harari to get everything right, since no one ever does. A recent edition of the You Are Not so Smart podcast (not yet posted at the web site) noted that medical students are now taught that half of what they learn in medical school will eventually turn out to be wrong. Science is always a work in progress. Fortunately, the scientific system is built for testing and error correction.
Not so long ago, I’d have thought the value of science was self evident and not in need of advocacy. Was I ever wrong! I expect that, barring nuclear catastrophe, science and reasonableness will prevail in the long run, but at the moment, we’re in trouble, with unreason ascendant on urgent questions of the environment, health, and social issues.
On Sunday afternoon we went to the N.C. Opera’s production of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. It was a new opera for us, and we found the melodies very beautiful. The principal singers were excellent, as usual, and the chorus was particularly strong. The orchestra had a rich sonority and tonal variety. Conductor Timothy Myers is a brilliant musician, and also a wizard, to conjure all this in little ole Raleigh, NC. We’re really sorry he’s leaving us for bigger things next year. It was touching when, in the final curtain call, the company threw roses at him.